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Transport of radioactive materials

The Euratom Community works to ensure the safe transport of radioactive materials.

Supervision and control of shipment of radioactive waste and spent fuel

All Member States in the EU produce radioactive waste, which come from either facilities like nuclear power plants and research reactors, or though activities like radioisotope applications in medicine, industry, agriculture, research and education.

Radioactive waste is any radioactive material in gaseous, liquid or solid form that is not going to be used any longer in the country of origin or in the destination country. The material also has to be controlled as radioactive waste by a regulatory body under the legislative and regulatory framework of the countries of origin and destination. A natural or legal person can decide if a material is radioactive waste, but the decision needs to be accepted by the countries.

The shipment of radioactive waste and spent fuel, through import, export and transit are common practices in the EU that occur regularly.

The EU's Directive on Shipments of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel (2006/117/Euratom) establishes a system of prior authorisation for such shipments in Europe. The directive

  • requires operators to notify national authorities about shipments of radioactive materials which depart from, go through, or end up in the EU
  • allows EU countries to ship spent fuel to each other for reprocessing and organise the return of the resulting radioactive materials
  • allows EU countries to send shipments of radioactive materials that do not comply with the directive back to their country of origin
  • prohibits the export of radioactive waste to African, Caribbean or Pacific countries, to Antarctica, or to any country which does not have the resources to safely manage it

Standing working group of national experts

To help and advice the European Commission on the transport of radioactive materials, a standing working group of national experts was set up in 1982.

This group on safe transport of radioactive materials in the EU exchanges information on the application of regulations concerning the transport of radioactive materials worldwide and makes proposals to the Commission.

Their fifth report (2006) recommended the implementation of a new radioactive waste transport safety programme covering six main areas:

  • supporting the international review and revision of radioactive materials transport regulations and safety guides
  • strengthening safety and security in the transport of radioactive waste with regards to the latest scientific and technological developments
  • progressing the development of emergency preparedness and response to prevent illicit trafficking in radioactive materials
  • assisting newer EU countries in the development and implementation of national regulatory infrastructure
  • promoting transparency by providing information to the public and the media
  • reducing the refusal of safe shipments of radioactive materials and removing barriers to competition.

The Commission Communication (COM(2006)102 final) introduced the fitth report from the group to the European Parliament and the Council.